Theater Review: Steve F. Vrtol III, Linda Abronski: true stars in ‘Mrs. Mannerly’

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

A lifelong relationship, both personal and theatrically, makes Steve F. Vrtol and Linda Abronski the most amazing people in theater today. From their many years at New American Theater to members of Artists’ Ensemble since its inception, audiences have loyally followed their careers and continually supported every production in which they appeared.

Mrs. Mannerly is the clever work of playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, partially based on his childhood memories of growing up in Steubenville, Ohio. The summer of 1967, Jeffrey became a student of Mrs. Mannerly, the local expert on the proper etiquette of Emily Post. Her pupils learned the proper language and the manners required to present themselves in every social situation.

It is the hilarious humor of Thatcher’s work and Vrtol’s and Abronski’s skill in its staging that makes the performance so perfect. Vrtol becomes not only Jeffrey, but all the members of his diverse class. Body language has always been his forte, and in this production, he uses it to perfection. Included in the plot is a bit of mystery concerning Helen Anderson Kirk, a.k.a Mrs. Mannerly. It becomes a central theme and greatly contributes to Jeffrey’s development. With a cast of two, the actors are challenged every moment, but their ability to meet the demands is never in doubt.

Mark Ulrich returns to AE to direct Mrs. Mannerly. Having worked for many years at New American Theater, he is now primarily based in Chicago. He is a member of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, and Chicago dramatist Jan Bacino joins the production team as costume designer; Angelo O’Dierno, scenic lighting designer; Laurie Oliver, technical director; Cindy Jo Savitski-Lantz, stage manager; and Kris Walters, production assistant. Also working on lighting is Christina J. Lewis, a theater major at Rockford College. The continuing relationship between AE and the Theater Department at the college provides many opportunities for both organizations.

Having expanded their season to five productions, the final play, 39 Steps, opens June 14 and runs through June 30. For further information, call (815) 394-5004. Tickets are also currently on sale for the upcoming 10th season.

From the May 22-28, 2013, issue

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